Wednesday, October 03, 2012

It's Okay to be a Sad Writer

Sadness or, in general, melancholy, gets a bad rap. We need to be melancholy. It fulfills us. It gives happy and satisfied new meaning, because without the down side to make us tackle issues, we do not grow.

My family calls me moody. One son in particular claims I lead the family pack in moodiness. I own it, and I also know that in the evenings, I'm moodier than in the morning. And occasionally I wonder who the hell I am and what the hell I'm trying to accomplish being a writer.

Second guessing ourselves makes us dig deep and put meaning to our efforts.

Author and psychologist Dr. Carolyn Kaufman recently woke up going blind. For most of the day, her sight deteriorated until she landed in the ER, almost hysterical, worried her sight was compromised forever. This interesting moment in her life had The Writer, as she puts it, pinging off her senses, taking it all in, thinking about how to incorporate the experience into her profession. You can read the entire experience here.

But hers was a sudden onset event, the lesson a quick one, though at the time I imagine she didn't consider it so fast. Melancholy is slower, longer term.

There's no doubt in my mind that melancholy was a part of Thoreau's being as he sought revelation via Walden. He was obviously disappointed with his life and sought answers in the woods. I so get that!

With all that happens in the world, some days I hate being a human being!

People react so nastily at times. And sometimes health issues, economic woes, family disappointment and career shortfalls just happen, and we take it all on ourselves . . . thinking how unfair life can be. 

"Who hasn't asked, "Why me?"

Sure, those ominous times chill our souls, but stop and ponder this. 
1) The Writer in us can gain so much from these experiences, these depth of feelings, and
2) The human in us can weather the pain better recognizing these experiences as growth, even opportunity, as we take notes, giving us something to do, to carry us through the agony.

"Joy is the polar opposite of melancholy. You can't have one without the other."

The above quote comes from Wake Forest University English professor Eric G. Wilson who recently penned Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, and was interviewed for The Smithsonian Magazine. I was intrigued. He expresses that we need to be in touch with our inner self, pondering why we don't like the way things are. At the same time, melancholy forces us to study the whys and hows in order to seek contentment. When we are content, we don't feel the need to hunt for change. 

My interpretation is this: Still water has no need to move. 

We need change and shake up to rattle the senses and draw upon our hidden talents. . . in writing especially. So the next time you crawl into bed, turn the TV off to evade too much bad news, or ponder your purpose in life after seeing others performing so well, let your melancholy accompany you. Take notes. Why do you feel this way? What would make you feel better? What can you do about it? How can you record this path you're on . . . and the way out of your dilemma? 

Stir the juices, with a dash of tears. Mope, hug yourself, eat the tub of ice cream, but make time to think hard about your lot in life at the moment. From such is born pivotal moments.

"I wonder if we continue to try to get rid of melancholy entirely, will we eventually be a culture that can't create a Keats or a Melville?"~Eric G. Wilson


Jordan Clary said...

Beautiful post and so relevant! It really touched a cord in me. This last year has been a tough one, but I've been writing more than ever. Thanks for the insight!

Hope Clark said...

You are quite welcome. I've been there too, more times than you know, Jordan. Good luck.

Janet Hartman said...

Thank you for reminding me I'm not alone. Why is it that always helps?

Hope Clark said...

I don't know, Janet, but we sure seem to need it every now and then.